Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Daughters, Fathers, Dances and Valentines

Once again, my youngest daughter, Ellie, and I visited the Father/Daughter dance sponsored by our local community services department. This was our fourth time, and we once again thoroughly enjoyed ourselves – Ellie especially. As usual, she started talking about this year’s dance on the ride home from last year’s, and is already talking about next year’s. She dresses up and wears a corsage, and I wear a suit and tie, we get our pictures taken, and we go out for a couple of hours dancing. When she isn’t grabbing a snack, or playing with a friend, that is.

Eventually, though, she will take my hands and we’ll dance. When we dance she likes to spin (all of her dresses have to spin well – female readers and Dads of daughters will understand), and will occasionally mimic some of the dance moves that she sees other dancers do. Last year, the big move was to suddenly – and I mean with absolutely no warning – jump into the air and slide between my legs, while holding my hands. This particular dance move has been called “the Nutcracker.” This year, she would grasp my fingers and twirl. Unfortunately, she didn’t lightly grasp my fingers, allowing for graceful, painless twirling. Gripping my fingers tightly – as if to keep her from falling, perhaps – she spun. Sadly, my fingers have not yet learned to twirl on my knuckles, and I spent a few frantic moments trying to figure out how to best explain sprained fingers as a dance injury. I felt it safest to hold hands and jump up and down until I got winded. It didn’t take as long as you might imagine.

It’s fun to see the changes in the fathers and daughters who have attended the dance regularly. Obviously, the greatest changes are in the daughters. Youth ages more quickly and less painfully. I can see that as time goes on, Ellie and I will dance together less frequently. She’ll find her friends and hang out with them, requesting songs I’ve never heard of, and I’ll watch her laugh and dance with them. I love that she’s growing, and I’m proud of her independence, but…

Next year, we’re talking about inviting my married daughter and her daughters, too. That’ll be fun.

I’m writing this shortly before Valentine’s Day. I don’t usually write a about that particular holiday, mostly because I tend to believe that it’s a personal sort of holiday. It’s a day about love – romantic love, not the “your-fellow-man” (excuse me, I’m supposed to say, “your-fellow-person”) type of love. That’s kind of private. It’s individual, and no mass-produced greeting card is ever really going to fit. Neither is a bouquet of roses that are just like all the other bouquets of roses that exchange hands on Valentine’s Day. Not that any of that matters. We still send flowers and give cards and candy and all that. Of course we do. It’s Valentine’s Day.

Christmas is a holiday that puts a lot of pressure on women. We men typically let our wives do the bulk of our Christmas shopping – for our kids, our parents, and most other people we “pick up” (that is; have picked up for us) gifts for. On Valentine’s Day, the pressure’s all on us guys. Look at the commercials. Have you ever seen an ad that says, “Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. This year, why not surprise him with…?” Me either. Every jewelry store IN THE WORLD can be found advertising in print and on television. Are they trying to sell men’s jewelry (whatever that is)? No. They’re just trying to sell jewelry to men.

Frequently, they succeed, because we men are too afraid to not buy it. What makes us afraid? The women in our lives. Women have wildly romantic expectations for Valentine’s Day. Men have a different view of romance: “Happy Valentine’s Day, Honey. It’s top of the line, and should cut the time you spend vacuuming in half! Now, come on over here and show me how much you love it. Ow!”

When we’ve finished ducking the blows, we hope for an explanation. “What do you mean it’s not a very nice Valentine’s Day present, Honey? It’s red. Please stop hitting me!” And we don’t understand the frustration. Because we’re happy with the dinner reservations and the card you gave us. Or the power tools, or golf club or whatever.

It’s not that hard to buy a present for a man. Power tools don’t come in many colors, we’ve told you which golf club we want, and tickets to major sporting events are always wonderful. Buying for women is tougher. It isn’t enough to just buy a present. We have to buy the right one. We have to know what the right one is. So we ask her. And she says, “You should know me well enough to know what I’d like.” Just because she said once that she wanted that red vacuum cleaner, though, doesn’t mean that it’s the right present. She might want it, but not for Valentine’s Day. Gift certificates are impersonal (fine for guys, though - seriously). A sexy nightgown’s nice, but she’ll hold it up and say, “Is this for me; or for you?” [One day, I’m going to say, “Me,” grab it and put it on. I’m just like that. When I say that, I mean that I like to shock people; I’m not implying that I wear lingerie. Often.]

Look, I know that it sounds like I’m complaining, but what I’m really trying to do is explain our side. This is tough for us. We need to try to open the lines of communication. Help us – give us straight answers. And we won’t give you appliances.


  1. Well, Elizabeth is one lucky woman. That fact that you have even put that much thought into the process would be a gift enough for me. I, seriously, got teary reading this. Job well done.

    As for the dance with Ellie, how adorable! I love that you do this with her and remember doing it with my dad. I always loved my corsage and that feeling....that you are so important to me feeling....wonderful!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Bethany and I attended every Daddy/Daughter dance until she was too old to attend. I have the photo from our first dance on my dresser today. She is almost 17 now. We have always had date night, and I cherish every memory.

    Good job being a dad and not just a father, Tony.